A couple of years ago when I was a ‘card carrying Charismatic’ I tended to shun reading books with doctrinal and theological content. My excuse seemed to be ‘Ah well I’ve got the Holy Ghost…Why bother?’. Little did I know that the cure for my spiritual obstinacy and immaturity would come from much discipleship and instruction that comes from humbly unravelling the depth of the riches of God’s glory through reading and studying the Word. We must not slacken in pursuing to know God more in our worship and daily living. We stand on the shoulders of others when we listen and read their instruction and admonition as they exposit the text through their writings. I recently came across this insightful excerpt:
The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. ~ 2 Timothy 4:13
A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—that is the preacher. How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books. He has been preaching for at least thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books!
The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, ‘Give attendance to reading.’ The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritan writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, ‘Bring the books’; join in the cry.
For meditation: What Christian books are in your library? God’s Word must come first (2 Timothy 3:16–17), but every Christian will benefit from having at least a concordance, commentaries, a cyclopaedia or Bible dictionary, a Christian theology and a church history. Remember that, unlike the inspired writers of Scripture, all authors make mistakes (James 3:1–2). If you borrow books from others, don’t forget that there are biblical principles relating to borrowing (Exodus 22:14; 2 Kings 6:5; Psalm 37:21).
Sermon by Charles Spurgeon no. 542
29 November, 1863